Volume 75, Number 45 | March 29 -April 04 2006

Tree killer' not cut out to stand trial yet

By Alex Schmidt

Among the subway crime, petty theft and other sundry cases arraigned in criminal court on Mon. March 27, David Sasson’s “tree murdering” exploits may have been the most unusual. After being apprehended on Feb. 23, the alleged tree killer, who is said to have used his bare hands to rip up and tear out plants in Union Square causing $24,000 worth of damage, underwent a psychological evaluation, the results of which were presented in court this week. Sasson was found unfit to assist in his own defense, and Judge Ellen Gesmer remanded him to the state-run Kirby Psychiatric Center for further evaluation and treatment.

The so-called 730 psychological examination Sasson underwent is a simple test of sanity. Sasson’s lawyer, Michael Rodi, said, “If you know who your lawyer is, where you are, what day it is — you’re oriented, as they say — you’ll pass.” In other states, Sasson might have been declared insane, but Rodi explained that insanity in New York is particularly difficult to prove. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene will now monitor Sasson until June 29 when his mental state will be revisited in court and he may be required to stand trial.

Sasson, 36, appeared calm and composed before the court in a green fleece jacket.

“He looks very presentable and he speaks well,” Rodi said. “He’s not a dumb guy by any stretch of the imagination. He went through high school and had a lot of college and he comes from a good family. But he’s got problems.”

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